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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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The Power of Digital Storytelling in the Classroom: Telling Stories With Technology

The first time I saw Ken Burns's documentary series The Civil War, I was captivated. He used old photos and personal letters to bring this part of our history to life and touch our hearts while we learned. Storytelling has been a form of communicating throughout the history of humanity and was a way to educate the younger generations.

We tell stories to children to introduce them to literature. As teachers, we are inspired, impressed, touched, and altogether enlightened with the digital stories we see. Whether on the Web, in a class, or just among friends, I enjoy them so much that when I have a little spare time, I search for new stories and replay several of my favorites. Like little jewels, they brighten my day.

There is an art to storytelling and a sequence to unfolding the story to the end. In the process of storytelling, we become more creative, gain speaking skills, and improve our verbal organizing skills and our ability to empathize. Now, with digital stories, pictures enhance storytelling's visual communication and appeal. The process includes planning, writing, editing, illustrating, and producing the components so that we communicate the heartfelt essence, not just the events.

Children are often bursting to tell their stories, and many teachers want to help them to become good storytellers. In working with hundreds of teachers, I have found that they would like resources and strategies to aid them in this task.

I would like to use the Spiral Notebook as a place to share good ideas and resources for developing storytelling in all levels of our culture and to make it even easier to tell our stories with technology. There are hundreds of guides, forms, software solutions, and examples to choose from. Each week, I will present a scenario and ask for your suggestions. Here is the one for this week:

In this week's case, a second-grade teacher wants to use storytelling in her curriculum but is too busy to help all twenty-five children individually. She decides her storytellers need listeners and help with their scripts. She collaborates with a fifth-grade teacher, and the older students are trained as listeners and scribes to listen to the stories and help the younger ones write or sequence their stories. On this Web site, she sees the Edutopia magazine article, "How To: Use Digital Storytelling in Your Classroom."

What would you suggest for next steps? We now have many helpful guides, software programs, and other resources to help us create and share digital stories. What are your recommendations to help primary teachers who want to use digital stories in their curriculum? Do you have a favorite Web site or training guide, or software recommendations, to get teachers and younger children started?

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Terri Surrency's picture
Anonymous (not verified)
This is just the blog that I was hoping to find. I am a fifth-grade language arts and social studies teacher in southeast GA. Next year I will be serving all 5th graders in a project-based technology class that will correlate with social studies standards. I need encouragement and guidance. The reason that I was considered for this job is that I am constantly trying to fit this type of learning in my classroom, but time issues always got in the way. Now I will have the time and resources, I just need the ideas. Anyone out there with ideas for projects that will support GA standards for 5th grade social studies would be greatly appreciated. I would also like for my students to work collaboratively with other 5th grade students in some way. Not sure how yet..open to suggestions. I really hope I hear from some people who would like to learn together about project-based teaching.
Lyle Sparkman's picture
Anonymous (not verified)
One of the pioneers in the use of storytelling to inform curriculum was Kilvington Girl's Grammar School in Australia. If you are interested in gaining a larger context for considering this phenomenon, I recommend investigating what Kilvington did.
M White's picture
Anonymous (not verified)
I'm the Tech Coordinator at a small suburban school. Althought not social studies, here's a quick example of basic tech integration in language arts. One of my 3rd grade classes teamed up with an older class to work on verb tenses. The younger kids decided on a verb, (such as type or read or slide or sneeze) and the older kids took photos of their younger buddies in action - "She will sneeze." "She is sneezing." "She sneezed." The younger kids dumped the 3 photos into the iPhoto folders (each student has their own login) and used the photos in a draw document (along with sentences) to illustrate their verb tenses. A project along these lines is fairly easy; the older students can deal with taking pictures and helping with the project, and the younger students have very concrete examples of a rather abstract language arts concept. These projects always take a little more planning, but seem well worth it. One problem we ran into - since all of the project tools must remain at school and some kids needs much more time to complete than others, the teachers put in more time than they thought they'd need. However, the kids were very proud of their project. Digital photography is a great way to begin to integrate technology. Put cameras in the hands of your kids, teach them and then trust them to take care of the cameras, and watch them come up with some great ideas.
Wanda Arias's picture
Anonymous (not verified)
I just took a class on a free download from Microsoft called Photo Story 3. It is so easy to use and all the participants shared their "first attempt". It is so great for doing stories using digital cameras and kids' artwork. Music, speaking, and other sounds can be added easily and there is even music on the program to use as a background. There are options to change photos. You just have to download and try it. It is great for doing your own storytelling, making lessons for the students, or letting the students do their own project.
M White's picture
Anonymous (not verified)
www.digitales.us Bernajean Porter's "DigiTales" website offers some great examples of different types of storytelling in the StoryKeepers' Gallery. She has also created scoring guides for various types of digital storytelling. I've found this to be one of the most invaluable resources for digital media projects. I'm using these scoring guides to guide my 6th gr students (and myself) with creating our own PSAs. www.digitales.us
Rhonda Drum's picture
Anonymous (not verified)
I am the Computer Lab Manager and Tech Coordinator at an elementary school in Florida and recently worked with fifth grade and pre-k students to produce a digital storybook on the alphabet. Capitalizing on the inherent "center stage" nature of our pre-k students, they posed in the shape of alphabet letters. Older students who had practiced the basics of digital pictures photographed them and dropped the photos into Apple's "iMovie". The pre-k students then recited the letter's name and phonetic sound and the audio clip was attached to each letter. The completed project was then saved in Quicktime format and used on classroom computers in pre-k through first grade classrooms to teach and reinforce phoenetic and letter recognition skills. The entire project was completed in 45 minute increments by creating small groups of pre-k students and fifth grade mentors. Each group was assigned a series of letters to photograph and import into the computer. Older kids were responsible for practicing and recording the audio segments and we all had a "wrap" party for the premiere of their masterpiece!

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